The below article was originally posted in San Francisco newsgroups for Halloween by Jeff Farris, who shares first-hand impressions of Zeena in early life. Farris and Zeena attended the same schools yet have never met. Many thanks to Mr. Farris for allowing us to reprint his article here! An afterword from Zeena follows his article:
Lucifer's Daughter in the Richmond District by Jeff Farris
In San Francisco on California Street, between 23rd and 24th Avenues in the Richmond District, there once was a house that was painted pure black long before it was fashionable or cool to do so. The home was rumored to have a real live roaring lion as well as human occupants, we were warned, who were devotees to the Prince of Darkness himself. Other than the austere and gloomy color, it was an unassuming little home just a few blocks down the road from where I grew up.
A typical San Francisco A-framed, 3 story Victorian, The Black House, as it was known for many years, was the official First Church of Satan and the home of Anton LeVay, aka, The Black Pope and Lucifer’s Great High Priest and author of the Satanic Bible, as well as his family, including 2 young children and his companion, the self professed sorceress and High Priestess, Diane Hegarty. An ex-carnival worker and notable chronic liar, Anton established the Church of Satan in 1966 where it had a run for about 35 years until it was eventually torn down in 2001, only to be replaced, unceremoniously, by a cheap, 4 unit apartment complex commonly known among locals as a Richmond Special. The son of Russian and Ukrainian immigrants who had arrived in the United States sometime near the turn of the 20th Century, Mr. LaVey had finally made a name for himself in the late 1960’s with his audacious ambition to create the first church of Satan ever, anywhere.
San Francisco, at the time, was ripe for such a plan and Anton soon found himself at the center of controversy along with much welcomed attention from the ranks of luminaries such as Hollywood elites, avant-garde artists, and rock superstars of the time. One of his first and most celebrated religious ceremonies held at The Black House was the “Baptism” of his youngest daughter, Zeena, in 1967, when she was just 3 years old.
You may have some familiarity with Anton LaVey, but it’s his daughter, Zeena, that I am most curious about today. Anton, who died in 1997, seemed more like an opportunist and a showman than that of a bonafide Satanist, but not Zeena. She was destined for a much more televised profile than her father, becoming the official spokesperson for the Church of Satan in the mid-1980’s during the days of what is now called the “Satanic Panic” wherein born-again, Christian fundamentalists and the U.S. media sensationalized what they said was rampant Satanic Ritual Abuse all across America, especially towards children. In actuality, there was really none happening at all.
Some say that it was a modern day witch-hunt fueled by rumors and hearsay, but it was not without serious repercussions when innocent citizens, mostly teachers and staff from 19 daycare centers and pre-schools, were convicted and some even imprisoned based upon the fabricated testimony of toddlers and therapists who said they had uncovered memories of ritual abuse after hypnotizing previous students. Basically, Christians giving false testimony and acting more like Satan, than, well... Satan.
Zeena was invaluable during this time, advising police departments throughout the country with a general understanding of Satanic practices which helped quell, at least some, of the satanic ritual abuse allegations. I guess that one could say that the first person to have ever been publicly christened, if I can even use that term, for dedication to Lucifer, could have no other destiny in store for her other than to set the record straight regarding the activities of Beelzebub and his followers.
Zeena was one year younger than I, born in 1963, and we went to the same middle school, Presidio Jr. High, on 30th Avenue in between Geary and Clement. I remember her as a very attractive young girl with sensuous lips and an almost ever present furrowed brow. I didn’t know her personally, but being that her father was a somewhat famous, or better yet, infamous San Franciscan, everyone knew who she was, even I. She got pregnant in the 8th grade, at the age of 13, which didn’t help her reputation at all. Vicious rumors went around school stating that it was her father who had impregnated her. Kids can be so mean but, to my knowledge, not one of them had the guts to ever confront Zeena personally. We were all afraid of her clan and no one was brave enough to start trouble with Lucifer’s very own baptized child.
Anyhow, as the years have transpired, I have kept my eye on the life and times of Zeena LaVey, or Zeena Schreck, which is her current last name. I wouldn’t say that I am a stalker, but I have always felt for her as one would feel towards any misunderstood outsider. I felt bad for her, actually, not that she needs my sympathy and she could probably care less of what I think, for that matter. But I’ve always believed that she was a good soul under extraordinary pressure from circumstances beyond her control. She was a San Francisco kid, caught up in those crazy times, no different than I, but definitely more complicated and dark.
As you can imagine, Zeena and her family weren’t very welcome in our working class, multicultural, mostly Catholic, and Asian, and Russian Orthodox neighborhood. In a 2012 interview with Vice Australia, she explains that she had to transcribe for the SFPD death threats left for her on her father’s answering machine wherein she was to be raped and killed. She was 11 years old at the time. She also states that her father may have haphazardly fallen into the role of The Black Pope by sheer accident and that the Church of Satan was created after a local publicist described Anton as a neighborhood eccentric and “the first priest of Satan.” Anton then seized the idea and transformed it into a religion and that it all took off from there.
To be clear, Anton’s belief system did not include an actual deity or entity that one would call Satan or Lucifer, the Angel of Light. He believed that there wasn’t a devil at all. It was an ego driven theology. Each person is a God, in essence, and the tenets of the religion are almost all selfishly motivated and self aggrandizing. It’s also important to note that the Church of Satan, for the most part, was ultimately a failed venture leaving Anton destitute by the time he died. He sold his soul for nothing more than a limited and fleeting run at popularity, poor thing.
By 1990, Zeena had renounced her father’s church and belief structure, and likewise the Church of Satan vehemently denounced Zeena, commencing a campaign to discredit her name. I don’t think she ever had contact with Anton after that. She claimed that her father was basically a charlatan and a con artist and that he never had the depth of knowledge to be a true Satanist and that it was all for show and celebrity.
Whether or not I believe her completely is predicated upon the publication of the Satanic Bible, which is still the definitive go to resource for anything Satanic. It is clear that he gave that book some thought. Nonetheless, Zeena then applied her spiritual endeavors towards the Temple of Set, which could best be described as a pre-christian, Egyptian mystery religion, but highly influenced by other ex-members of the Church of Satan and the writings of Aleister Crowley. But even here, Zeena failed to find an environment that was to her liking and she resigned from her post as High Priestess in 2002. She then formed the Sethian Liberation Movement, donned with a title that could only be conjured up by an ex-San Francisco kid who survived the citywide pandemonium that the Symbionese Liberation Army caused when they kidnapped Patty Hearst in the early 70’s.
Currently, Zeena is a self avowed Tibetan Tantric Buddhist and she offers counseling services and specifically ministers to victims of extreme circumstances, the socially stigmatized, outcasts, and those otherwise subject to prejudice. By use of yogic, meditative and shamanic exercises, she offers short-range treatment, she says, without having to become an initiate of any particular spiritual path. Like the Phoenix, she claims that she can help you rise from the ashes of difficult experiences, find your own inner mystical resources, and have a spiritual awakening towards a foundation of inner strength.
Personally, I believe in her and I want her to succeed. If anyone has experience of overcoming difficulties, Zeena is among those who have. It seems poetic to me that a young girl from San Francisco, without any act of her own volition, was baptized at the tender age of 3 into the milieu of post-modern sensationalized Satanism, only to come out the other side finding peace and stability from the teachings of someone as self effacing and modest as the Buddha. I sincerely hope that she ultimately finds the peace that surpasses all understanding. As a fellow San Franciscan, I am rooting for her. How about you?
– Jeff Farris
San Francisco, Halloween 2014
Afterword by Zeena:
Thank you Jeff, wherever you are! Though it's true we never met, nor shared any words in those years, I never forget a face and knew it was you, because you still look the same, some 40 years later. You are correct that most people didn't have the guts to speak to me then in school, unless antagonistically. The same character traits usually remain on into adulthood. People who refuse to educate themselves about what they're frightened of, find comfort in remaining ignorant. So thank you for your curiosity to educate yourself, and for your candid recollections.
And, as you alluded to, I have found peace and contentment. When we have peace within ourselves and develop intrinsic happiness and relinquish hope for extrinsic sources of happiness, we have peace and joy wherever, and in whatever, situations we find ourselves.
Wishing you [all] a fantastically Happy Halloween.
The Occult Influences of Sympathy for the Devil
Den of Geek online journal explores the mystique and back stories of the 1968 cult anthem Sympathy for the Devil, by The Rolling Stones in this in-depth article. Exclusive interview with Zeena throughout the article, recalling her first-hand experiences with and magical interpretations of the song and its influences (excerpted in parts below: Full article, HERE and again at end of this post):
Zeena Schreck, a Berlin-based interdisciplinary visual and musical artist told Den of Geek [...] “I'm sure they didn't mind the controversy that came with the dark associations from 'Sympathy,' or the previously released 'Their Satanic Majesties Request.' I'd think the more sinister reputation would have been, for the Stones, a welcome delineation from the 'I-wanna-hold-your-hand’ Beatles [...] generally, it seemed they were tapping into the overall Zeitgeist of the times, of the overwhelming pop-culture focus on occultism, witchcraft, and Satanism,” Zeena explains. “Specifically, the theme of that song seemed more a literary reference, influenced by the Russian novel The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov. I doubt there were any intentional sinister motivations.”
Rock has been called the devil’s music since it began to roll. This is both overt bigotry and inferred spiritual racism. There must be real power in those jungle beats that pump out real magic. “Possibly one of the reasons that particular song developed such an aura surrounding it is due to the consistent, shamanistic-like percussion and chanting,” says Zeena. “The quality of the rhythm in ‘Sympathy’ is similar to magical drumming played to induce trance states. That type of hypnotic rhythm is a traditional method of inducing altered states of consciousness. Combine that with the copious amounts of drugs and psychedelics that everyone was taking those days, while invoking a (conventionally understood) malevolent force, then obviously the effects would be quite epic.”
Invoking a Demon Brother: “Sympathy for the Devil” was captured in two takes, the first one Richards declared a disaster, before hitting on the perfect alchemy. The recording was filmed by French new wave film icon Jean-Luc Godard, who renamed his film One Plus One in honor of it for its 1968 producer’s cut. During the five days of recording, as the stories go, a film lamp started a fire that laid waste to the band’s equipment. The tapes were protected, another clue to the possessed nature of the noise.
The band’s mythic satanic alliance was further cemented by their association with American underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger, a former child actor who wrote the tell-all book Hollywood Babylon. Anger was a Crowleyan who called his movies Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, Scorpio Rising, and Fireworks “visual incantations” and “moving spells.” Jagger played the synthesizer soundtrack for his Invocation of My Demon Brother. Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin scored one on Crowley. Anger met the Stones through art gallery owner Robert Fraser and asked if they would work on a film called Lucifer Rising. Anger wanted to cast Mick as Lucifer and Keith as Beelzebub.
Zeena says that, during the 1960s and 1970s, the filmmaker “transmitted the influences of Curtis Harrington, Jean Cocteau, and Maya Deren [to her],” adding that her own art “was influenced early in life by the mentorship of her godfather Kenneth Anger.” During her childhood and adolescence, Zeena “was privy to Anger's conversations about his involvement with such contemporaries as the Rolling Stones, Jimmy Page and Anita Pallenberg.”
“Occasionally Kenneth Anger would mention his involvement with the members of the band,” Zeena says. “When the subject came up, he'd say they'd brought destructive energies upon themselves. Ironically he, himself, helped facilitate that, being their magical mentor. Despite the Stones' backing off from the 60s’ dark occult influences around them, there can be no denying that Anger was a strong influence for a time, as witness Jagger's soundtrack for Invocation of my Demon Brother.”
But Zeena, who was teaching magic and sorcery at the age of 16, “never agreed with Kenneth's admiration and proselytizing of Aleister Crowley and Thelema. It's a very destructive and misogynistic philosophy which has brought a lot of harm to people who take it seriously.” Zeena severed ties with her father and his Church, and is now a teacher of Tibetan Tantric Buddhism, where the music of the Rolling Stones is more welcome.
“Although Kenneth Anger was befriended with both the Rolling Stones and my father during the same years, you definitely would not hear ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ playing at Church of Satan headquarters,” Zeena says. “The simple reason is that the High Priest had very rigid, idiosyncratic interpretations of what he considered ‘satanic music.’ Rock music, heavy metal, or any other kind of popular music, were definitely not part of his satanic jukebox.”
The British band might also have stopped dropping quarters into the American director’s nickelodeon. “Kenneth Anger they thought laughable,” Faithfull wrote in her memoirs. “Mick and Keith were utterly contemptuous of his satanic hocus-pocus.”
“However, a more direct magical influence, aside from Kenneth Anger, influencing the group during the making of 'Sympathy for the Devil', would have more likely been Anita Pallenberg,” Zeena says. “She openly practiced black magical rituals and never hid her fascination for the darker side of life. She not only performed backing vocals but also had a creative influence on the music and style of the group, being their sort of 'resident witch.' I know one of Pallenberg's cousins who confirmed she was always into the black arts and a little 'witchy.’”
Because Swinging London in the '60s only really ranged a few blocks, both the Rolling Stones and the Beatles were loosely connected to the sixties counter-spiritual group, the Process Church of Final Judgement, but mainly because they all went to Pink Floyd shows. “The Stones' playing with popular satanic themes and imagery may have begun superficially at first but ultimately a malignant seed was planted and the conditions for destructive consequences ripened,” Zeena says, referencing another tragedy that played into the song’s morbid mythology.
The legend of the “Sympathy for the Devil” took more sinister turn during the Altamont Free Concert in 1969. Though Meredith Hunter was killed by Hell’s Angel’s bikers who were working security while the band was playing "Under My Thumb," the fight that killed him interrupted the band as they kicked into their rhythmic satanic anthem. "We're always having—something very funny happens when we start that number," Jagger said before the band restarted the number. Because of the public outrage, the Stones didn’t play the song live for the next seven years.
Brian Jones was played out during the recording of Beggars Banquet, but he was not silent. Richards worked double and triple duty, but Jones did the wonderful slide work in “No Expectations,” and played the sitar and tanpura on "Street Fighting Man." The album would be the last with Jones, who was discovered drowned in his Sussex swimming pool on July 26, 1969. His own musical exploration propelled the band to take the lead in many major musical movements. “Speaking only for my years composing with Radio Werewolf, I wouldn't say ‘Sympathy’ or Satanic Majesties Request had direct influence on my music within Radio Werewolf,” Zeena says. “But I did have a strong affinity with their music produced in the Brian Jones years - their music when it had a more medieval flavor. That sound is what I'm naturally drawn to and often create.”